US armed drones will now take off from Sicily, Italy to conduct operations against Islamic State in Libya.
The Italian government agreed to let American drones operate from Sicily’s Sigonella air base to counter a resurgence of violent extremism in Libya. However, under the agreement, Italy allows the drones to conduct missions for defensive purposes only. Basically, Italy will allow strikes flown from their air base on a case by case basis.
Washington has tried to convince Italy for the past 18 months to allow them to use the Sigonella air base against Islamic State in Libya. Washington believes Libya is a North African staging point to more violent extremism in Europe and needs to be stopped before it crosses the Mediterranean.
Italy is leading a coalition called the Libyan International Assistance Mission (LIAM) comprised of seven NATO allies. Rome insist that unless a legitimate Libyan government request assistance, they will refuse to conduct military operations in the war-torn country.
The Italian government fears that it will become involved in another country’s civilian war, degrading its domestic popularity due to costly military interventions.
That said, Rome deployed four AMX fighter aircraft and a Predator drone to its Birgi base near Trapani, Sicily, amid concerns over the situation in Libya.
Islamic State has diverted its fighters from Syria and Iraq to North Africa. Due to successful bombings by Russia and the U.S.-led coalition, many fighters are now traveling to Libya to spread terror on innocent civilians.
Earlier this week, the United States conducted an air strike in the Libyan city of Sabratha, near the Tunisian border. Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian-born militant who masterminded two terrorist attacks in his home country, was killed in the strike along 42 others. Two Serbian hostages were also killed in the strike.